MIDWEEK POETRY: La Perouse Dreaming. part 1. Connection? and Frenchman’s Beach.

How to get there. La Perouse is at the end of Anzac Parade, 14 km south of Sydney’s CBD. It is serviced by Sydney Buses route 394 which depart Circular Quay I would like to add here that if any Aboriginal person is reading this blog that I mean no disrespect in the use of the term Dreaming. If you read on you will, hopefully understand the great connection I had with the sea and the beaches.

That says it all, or does it? In future posts there will be insightful prose, or perhaps a Haiku or two. I may even waffle on about my great love of the place, and the thrills and adventure I found there. Dreaming in this context is based on the Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime, that period in their belief system when their world was created. When land features, animals and great warriors came into existence.  My world at the time shifted dramatically with two moves after arriving in Australia. The old established order of my life vanished, the structured existence of Hostel life instigated a change in kids. Discovery and adventure were the order of the day. We moved from Bunnerong Hostel in mid 1961 to live in Elaroo Avenue. I won’t give its number, suffice to say it fronted Botany Bay. The sand hills and oil refinery at Kurnell stood out on the southern horizon. The heads could be seen on the left and Mascot airport was a smudge on the landscape to the right. On the other side of the road stood an Aboriginal Mission. The land dipped away like a large bowl and small white painted wooden houses dotted the rim. The Methodist Chapel sat up the road, and below that in one edge of the bowl a small group of tin humpies nestled together. Aboriginal Elders spent hours sitting outside these humpies, making artefacts for the tourist trade. At times my brother and I would sit near them and watch. They accepted two little, extremely white boys and allowed us to stay as long as we wished. Past the mission and on to Frenchman’s Beach a jetty with a two storey building on it juts out into the bay from the rocks. There were only the three children in our family then, my older sister, myself and a brother six years my junior. Due to the age differences this gave me time to get away on my own and explore this wondrous new world I found myself in.  So here we go:

Connection?

Dark brown faces wrinkle in laughter.
Cataract covered eyes that have
witnessed great change glow with a
mixture of laughter and grog.
Gnarled, arthritic hands wield shards
of broken glass, revealing the beauty of a
Nulla Nulla, from a lump of wood.
A collection of fresh boomerangs lie on the
ground. Wood transformed, waiting
to fly. 

I watch in awe as an old man throws them
one by one. They swish through the air in a
huge arc and come flying back to him
like frightened children.
Catching them with a clap of his hands
he places them in his basket. 

Light blue smoke rises from their fire,
The women feed it to heat the billycan
for their tea and then return to their shell work.
A man plucks an old soldering iron
from the coals. Its glowing end burns
into the wood unveiling kangaroos,
koalas and even the Harbour Bridge. 

We have to go, our legs, aching from squatting
need to be stretched. Now the boomerangs have
gone, a group boys race out with a rugby ball.
Laughing, screeching we run ourselves ragged.
Age nor race matters, there’s a game to be played.
Laurie Smith© 2013

Frenchman’s Beach.

Even now I dream about you.
I remember the first summer’s day.
I made my way through thick grass,
that held the dunes together.
You opened before me.
Tender feet used to the
pebbles of cold northern beaches
sank into your squeaky sand.
Hot sand,
I hopped to the water’s edge
and your warm waters soothed my soles.

Jellyfish lay on the edge of the tide.
Dark blue tentacles waiting to trap the unwary.
You only go near them once.
Boatsheds leaning on sinking stumps,
weathered planks stripped of paint.
Doorways open, staring. Glimpsing
inside, a jumble of nets and floats
smother a fishing boat, older than
the shed.

A two storey café sits on the rocks,
I can’t miss the jetty jutting out
of it. Tourists wander down
from the snake show, for morning
tea and cake. Aboriginal boys leap
off the railings into the calm sea,
while white people throw coins.

Oohing and ahhing I run across the
hot, splintered planks. Looking down
I see the smiling faces, eagerly waiting
for a penny. If they’re lucky a shiny sixpence
may come their way.
‘Lady, lady throw us a penny.’
Sunlight reflects off the copper coin as it
arcs through the air. Splish.
Several faces disappear, legs waving
in the air, they’re gone. The quickest
resurfaces, mouth open, coin on his
pink tongue for all to see.

Unsure, I walk to the end of the jetty,
away from the crowd.
The sea laps at the ramp,
hiding,
then revealing the barnacles clinging

to the wooden pylons.
Taking a breath I stand
on the edge,
stare for a moment
and try not to think too much about sharks,
then dive down
below the surface.
Warm, salty.
I hold my breath.
Opening my eyes I surface,
and like Venus rising from the foam,
I’m reborn.

My Dreaming has begun.

Laurie Smith© 2013


My sister and brother in the front yard, with the Aboriginal Mission homes and Botany Bay in the background, The colour photo was taken in 2006 on my video camera. (not a great shot)

Untitled

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Yours truly on the front steps of the house. Yes I had Bucky Beaver teeth, however the great tan and attractive white T shirt and shorts made up for it.

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26 thoughts on “MIDWEEK POETRY: La Perouse Dreaming. part 1. Connection? and Frenchman’s Beach.

  1. Holistic Wayfarer

    Precious, L. Esp the photos. I quite enjoy your poetry.
    What do you think of knocking off the “d” in wrinkled?

    Dark brown faces wrinkled in laughter.
    Flipping the passive voice to the active where it’s usu. not done is a writer’s trick of mine.

    I also like the oohing and aahing, sounds out of reality.

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  2. Pagadan

    Laurie, I enjoyed the pictures your poems created, especially the old man with the boomerang–and thanks for adding the photos. That certainly made it more personal. Btw, you were a cute kid!

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  3. bgbowers

    These are wonderful, Laurie. I especially love the first stanza of Frenchman’s Beach, and the aboriginal dreamtime connection. I can imagine how stark the change from UK to Australia would have been – sounds like a welcome & positive change 🙂

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi Bianca, thank you. It was a magical experience indeed. I managed to get mum to buy me a pair of thongs so it wasn’t too bad going to the beach after that. 🙂 I put in the Dreamtime connection because I think we all have a connection to the land and a grounding in ancient myths. I felt that connection and realise now that the land and sea was ‘talking’ to me. Oh yeah the change was indeed vast. The wide open sky and horizons, the storms, heat. amazing. 🙂

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  4. Owls and Orchids

    A real change of pace Laurie. Your intro to Australia was so different to mine, but then I suppose age matters 🙂 There are times I feel I missed out on both cultures, such a quiet little pumpkin was I! Love the poems and the description…you can keep the sharks. I’m sure it will be suitable horrifying. Your photos remind me of the ones my uncle had from when he first arrived – so different to mine… its amazing to see the difference cameras and locale make. Rambling am I – you might be right.
    Ciao, Susan x

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Age and money I would say Susan. We arrived at Cabramatta Migrant Hostel with our suitcases, a kettle we couldn’t use and 2 pounds 10 shillings. A quiet pumpkin indeed. Age does make the difference, in England I was never home in summer, so to me Sydney was in summer all year round. Let’s face it after a north of England summer Sydney’s winters were downright balmy. My sister and I would traipse the few miles to Maroubra beach from Bunnerong and frolic in the winter surf, along with all the other migrant kids. Maroubra did nothing for me but when I set eyes on La Perouse, well, I became about 10 different explorers and adventurers rolled into one. Yes the shark will not disappoint. As to the photos we had a Brownie box camera and funnily enough I only have the pics now because I found the negatives. The old man would take these pics and send them home to his relatives. As much to say, ‘Look I can do something right, we are here.’ Imagine the difference a digital camera would have made then?
      I’ll stop rambling as well.
      Cheers
      Laurie. 🙂

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  5. rayjamieson

    Great poetry Laurie, your words are like paintbrushes, the spaces between the words are filled with life and colour and sounds and feeling. You take us there. Excellent…

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    1. hitandrun1964

      Oh, you definitely are cover boy material. No doubt about it. OHHHHH how about a cover holding a sweet chicken? Let me know what you think? I think at least one of the hens would love it:) The horse picture is on my blog. LOL I suppose it could be on the back cover of not to wear when riding a horse but hey, my mom dressed me. In later pictures I had cowboy boots and stuff. LOL Hope you are feeling better. I teas you about the war but i tease you about everything so… I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. I’m so happy you loved where you lived. I really like the pictures…so cute. Keep them coming. Sharks…Arggg. Not good. I’m a minnow girl myself. Catch ya later.

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      1. laurie27wsmith Post author

        *Blush* that would be great, me holding a chicken. Make sure it’s a cute one, not that Spring Chicken 🙂 I’ve been over and checked out your and left a message. Cute. Mothers dress for the weather, not appearances. I’m trying some breathing techniques that may help so fingers crossed. yes you are a terrible tease, don’t stop. Where I lived gave me the opportunity to ‘hide’ myself while at the same time soaking everything up. there will be sharks. Minnows eh? Knowing my luck I’d cut myself opening a can of sardines. 🙂 I’ll be here.

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      2. hitandrun1964

        Oh, I hope the breathing techniques help. Want you fit and out taking great photographs for the hungry masses. Teasing you is way too much fun to stop and the chicken who volunteered to visit is gorgeous, so no worries. She thought she could fly and when we told her that her wings, though beautiful, were not exactly made for flying, well, she’s been a bit weepy off and on. She”s kind of afraid of planes since she over heard someone talking about Bird Strike so… I’ll keep you posted. Breath in and breath out. Hold it for 10 then do it again. 🙂 Be well my friend, Chirp.

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      3. laurie27wsmith Post author

        You have a beautiful chicken for me? You’re teasing again aren’t you? Chickens hate it when you tell them they can’t fly, they get a little clucky. Breathing with some determination, have become used to it. 🙂 You will read about bird strikes later on, shudder. take care, talk soon.
        Cheeps
        Laurie.

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      4. hitandrun1964

        Yes, they get upset when they learn that their tiny wings won’t get them very far. Sigh. I can understand that…poor babies. And yes…there was a very beautiful chicken willing to chirp you back to health but alas, it isn’t meant to be:( I’m sure she thinks about you often.

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  6. hitandrun1964

    Wonderful. How interesting. It sounds so open where you grew up. Chicago doesn’t have any open spaces like that. We had trees and streets. I grew up swimming in park pools, playing in alleys, gangways, riding el trains and playing baseball in the street using the sewer covers as bases. LOL My uncle took me to the stable every week so I was always riding horses, grooming them, mucking out barns, playing with the cats and even a goat: But that’s as country as I ever got:) I’m a skyscraper person…all the way. Your childhood sounds like fun. Lake Michigan doesn’t have sharks, so I never had to worry about that. It does, however, take people for it’s own all the time. It’s a VERY dangerous lake. You just drown, however, and the fish don’t eat you until later and even then, unlike the sharks, our fish just nibble. Oh, and you don’t get salt all over you either:) Love the photograph. You were so cute. Watch my blog…I’m going to send you a picture of me on a horse when I was a kid. LOL If I can find one.:) When you see it you’ll think you are cover boy material in your sweet white-t.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      My first 9 years were spent in the north of England. Adventure plus for a little boy but it was bloody cold. Coming to Australia was the best thing that ever happened to me and living at La Perouse, the icing on the cake – for a while. In its own way your childhood years were just as adventurous. back alleys can be castles, a child’s imagination is a wonderful thing. Yep, goats count as country. 🙂 Lake Michigan sounds just as scary. I will have a shark experience poem coming up and lots of bodies too. Looking forward to your horsey pic, girls and their horses. Gigi, I always thought I was cover boy material. 🙂
      Talk soon,
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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  7. Raani York

    This is a very special post, Laurie. I love the pictures too – together with the poems they paint a quite vivid picture. Another great poetry post!!

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Raani, I like to put a pic in now, it certainly adds to the experience. I will organise some clearer pics of how it is now. If you google earth La Perouse you will get a great view of the beaches. beautiful.
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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